Transport Canada report urges railway companies to install recording devices

TORONTO – Transport Canada is urging railway companies to install voice and video recording devices in their locomotives in order to help with accident investigations.

The ministry released a study on Friday that calls on railway companies to voluntarily install the devices, at the cost of roughly $10,000 per locomotive.

The issue was raised in the aftermath of a fatal train derailment in Burlington, Ont., last year.

A Via Rail train was travelling at almost 108 kilometres an hour on Feb. 26, 2012, when it derailed west of Toronto, killing the three engineers and injuring 45 people — 44 passengers and a Via employee.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada will announce the results of its investigation into the accident on Tuesday.

At Transport Minister Denis Lebel’s request, the Advisory Council on Rail Safety struck a working group of railway representatives, unions and Transport Canada staff to explore concerns that there were no communication recording devices in the cab of the Via train’s locomotive.

After meeting with various stakeholders, the working group decided that asking companies to voluntarily install recording devices was the best option.

Via Rail has already agreed to do.

“We applaud Via Rail’s commitment to voluntarily installing voice recorders on all their trains, and we strongly encourage other rail operators to consider doing the same,” said Lebel in a statement.

However, stakeholders from the industry and those from the unions disagreed on whether the companies should be allowed to use the recordings for other kinds of monitoring.

Industry representatives pointed out that installing the devices just to investigate one or two incidents a year would have very little, if any, safety benefit, whereas using the devices to monitor compliance could prevent accidents.

On the other hand, union reps were concerned that the recordings would be used for disciplinary action, and asked the companies to agree to delete recordings that are taken during uneventful trips.

The disagreement between the two sides contributed to the working group’s decision that installing the recording devices should be voluntary.